Climate: In April, the planet is still overheating

Climate: In April, the planet is still overheating
Climate: In April, the planet is still overheating

In April, the planet overheated again

Published today at 04:11

The world once again experienced “remarkable” temperatures in April, marked by a new monthly heat record on land and on the surface of the oceans, according to the latest report from the European Copenicus observatory published on Wednesday.

The natural climatic phenomenon El Niño “continued to weaken”, suggesting a possible respite later in the year, but without changing anything in the underlying trend of warming fueled by the massive combustion of oil, coal and fossil gas.

Still above 1.5 degrees

Since June last year, every month has broken its own monthly heat record. April 2024 is no exception to the rule with an average temperature of 15.03°C, or 1.58°C higher than a normal April in the climate of the pre-industrial era (1850-1900).

“Although unusual, such a series of monthly records had already been observed in 2015/2016,” specifies Copernicus. Over the last 12 months, the global temperature has been on average 1.61°C higher than in the pre-industrial era, exceeding the limit of 1.5°C set by the 2015 Paris agreement.

This anomaly should, however, be noted on average over several decades to consider that the climate has reached this critical threshold. Nevertheless, these figures show “how remarkable the global temperature conditions we are currently experiencing are,” underlines Julien Nicolas, climatologist at the Copernicus Climate Change Department (C3S), during an interview with the AFP.

Last month was the second warmest April ever recorded in Europe, as was March and the entire winter period.

Contrasts on bad weather

“Each additional degree of climate warming is accompanied by extreme climatic events, both more intense and more probable,” recalls Julien Nicolas, while the last few weeks have been marked by extreme heat waves in Asia, from l India to Vietnam, while southern Brazil suffered deadly floods.

However, regarding precipitation, Copernicus does not show clear trends for April: the month was wetter than normal in a large part of Europe, but drier in the south of the continent.

Same contrast outside Europe: in a large part of North America, in Central and Eastern Asia, in the Gulf and southern Brazil, extreme rains caused floods. But in northern Mexico, around the Caspian Sea and across large parts of Australia, drought dominated.

Oceans: small inflection

The ocean surface temperature once again broke a monthly record in April, at 21.04°C on average excluding areas near the poles, marking a 13th monthly record in a row.

This overheating threatens marine life, brings more moisture into the atmosphere and threatens the ability of the oceans to fulfill their crucial role in absorbing human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. However, the temperature marked a slight inflection compared to March and its absolute record, all months combined (21.07°C).

El Niño calms down

The natural climatic phenomenon El Niño “continued to weaken” in April to move towards “neutral conditions”, estimates Copernicus. This natural variation concerns the equatorial zone of the Pacific Ocean and induces global warming.

El Niño “reached its peak at the start of the year,” notes Julien Nicolas, which can explain a slight change in average temperatures in April compared to March.

“Model projections indicate a possible transition to La Niña conditions in the second half of the year but conditions are still quite uncertain,” continues the climatologist. La Niña is the counterpart of El Niño, which produces opposite effects. But the end of El Niño will not change the underlying warming trend.

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